In conversation with Black Square
We sat down with Brighton-based producer Andrew Beaton, aka Black Square, to discuss collaboration, his new EP 'Beggars Opera' which includes remixes by Throwing Snow and Phaeleh, writing for film & TV and more.
Hi Andrew, first of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
No problem at all.
I wanted to get started by asking you about your most recent release, Coral Blues feat. Laville, that just came out on Blind Colour. It’s really good by the way. How did that come about?
So while we were working on the last album we had some time in the studio and I had some new material and through the mix engineer Alex Evans we started finding new vocalists. Andre was one of those and I was immediately impressed with his singing.
Have you known Laville for some time? He’s got an amazing voice.
I only met him initially through this project and yeah his voice is amazing.
And the remixers, Phaeleh, who did a remix for us last year, and Throwing Snow, one of my favorite artists of all time, super talented. Did you choose to collab with them or was it the label’s initiative?
It was a mix of the two. I knew Ross (Throwing Snow) a little before hand and have followed Phaeleh’s work for years so when we were looking around for people it turned out that Jez Lloyd, the head of Blind Colour, knew them and had already got them to remix previous releases of his so it seemed like a natural fit. I was blown away by both the remixes.Andrew works on a plethora of projects, with the aim to bring out the most from both sound and visual aspects of any project and create something that is powerful, unique and memorable.
This tune definitely whetted the appetite for more. Are there any plans to release any new material feat. Laville?
Possibly. I’m working on a load of new material at the moment. If I make a tune that both he and I agreed suited him then maybe. It’s always a mix of working with long term collaborators and finding new people as well.
Your last album ‘Silent City’ came out in 2016, yet you haven’t been idle, creatively speaking. You work as a sound designer, correct?
I work mainly as a freelance composer for TV and film and anything in between. I do some sound design. I’ve found that having sound design as a skill I can bring to the table has won me work. It’s not my main area but is something I can do. For some jobs the line between sound design and music can get blurred so to be able to move freely between the two is useful.
And you have worked with some very reputable brands (BBC, Saachi & Saachi, Nike, the list goes on…). Do you work directly with those brands, or through an agency?
It’s nearly always through an agency.
And you’ve also done music for documentaries. Has that been mostly through sync or do are they original scores?
I used to run a music production company with an Icelandic composer Bjarni Biering called Maven Sound. We did a few documentaries as full original scores although if you have a large enough number of tracks published some will always end on various documentaries.
What about films? Have you ventured into scoring any shorts or full-length features?
I’ve done a few shorts and independent films. It’s a great process and definitely something I would like to explore further. It’s a really interesting and requires a different mindset to writing songs or dance tracks. I find the variety essential.Andrew Beaton during a recent recording session for his commercial work, at AIR Studios, in London.
Besides all of this, you’ve also worked as a producer and mixer for a fair amount of projects.
I do quite a lot of work for EMI where I act as composer, producer and mixer. I recently recorded strings I wrote at Air Studios which was a great experience. As the quality of artificial strings gets better such as Spitfire Audio plugins the need for real strings becomes less so to get the opportunity to write, record then mix strings played by some of the best players in the world was a dream. Also I’ve spent the passed few years work on my mixing so I can become fully self-sufficient. Silent City was mixed in it’s entirety by Alex Evans, and Beggar’s Opera he mixed about half the album including Coral Blues and they sounded great and I learnt a lot from sitting in those sessions. Now I can mix all my own material which is great.
So with this wide array of creative outlets, what prompted you to want to release music as Black Square? What constitutes a key difference between music that say, you composed for sync purposes or for an advert, versus something you’d like to release to the world under the Black Square alias?
I think ultimately it comes down to creative freedom. To put it simply my work as a composer I will write anything and everything for a fee and really enjoy the process of being pushed in new directions and having to work out the rules of any style of music the client is asking for. Black Square in contrast is an opportunity to write whatever and with whoever I wish. No-one can tell me what to do. It also allows me to explore areas that are more experimental which you’re less likely to be asked for by a client. By keeping them separate I never have to compromise either of them or get bored.
Tell me about the music video by Friend London, who’s done stuff for Charli XCX or Childish Gambino. How’d that collaboration come about?
It came about because a friend of mine put me in touch with a director called Edmund Fraser. He need music / sound design for a 30s film called Amber, you can see it on my composer website. His agent was Lucrecia Taormina, who is an amazing director in her own right, who put me in touch with her boyfriend, Luke Tierney, who works for Friend as head of music videos. A few months later out of nowhere I get a call from Luke Tierney saying he had listened to my album and loved it and would I want a music video made.
What are some of your quintessential studio tools lately?
I use Logic as my main Daw although have been exploring Ableton more which I also use for live gigs. Pro Tools is amazing for editing large projects. I also recently upgraded to a UAD Apollo x6 which has made a hug difference to my mixes along with Sonarworks which helps deal with any sound issues you’re having in your studios. Some of the UAD plugins are amazing, like the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor and the Ampex-ATR102 Tape Emulation. For synths I love Omnisphere and Reaktor 6.
Also shortcuts are essential to my work flow. Anything which speeds up the creative process so you’re not thing about the software just the music is essential for me.
What’s next for Black Square? Any plans to release more music?
I’m currently working on a third album, I’ve got a bunch of material ready to go and am looking around for vocalists at the moment. Some tracks are already finished. Hopefully within a year it will be ready.
We are doing this interview right in the midst of this global COVID-19 outbreak. What role do you think music and musicians have during this time?
I think it will be really tough, especially for musicians who make a living from live shows. There’s always been a strange connection with tough times and great art so hopefully all the weeks the creative community are forced to spend indoors will lead to a sudden bloom of work when we get out the other side. Also for all the people who can’t got to work and are sitting at home music will be essential to keeping them happy.
Thank you for taking the time and good luck with all your creative endeavors.
No problem, thanks very much.
Black Square 'Beggars Opera' is out now via Blind Colour. Listen here.
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